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Posts Tagged ‘Okanagan edible plants’

DSCN2107It was a rainy morning yesterday so I decided to stay inside and make a batch of lacto fermented vegie kraut. I’ve been wanting to make pickled purslane for a while now so I ventured down to the backyard and picked a few handfuls of this juicy, crunchy, fleshy, wild vegetable from the undergrowth of my vegetable garden. Inspired by my sister’s kimchi lesson, I decided to deviate from a traditional cabbage kraut and create something with a variety of textures and complimentary flavours.

First we chopped up cabbage, green onion, garlic scapes and salad turnips.

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Not all turnips made it.

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Then we set up an apparatus to separate some whey from our fresh batch of milk kefir in order to inoculate the kraut.

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Once the whey was dripping into our jar we wandered outside to the garden to pick purslane and have a play break in the rain.

Purslane in the undergrowth of the vegetable garden ecosystem.

Purslane in the undergrowth of the vegetable garden ecosystem.

A broccoli attack occurred…

DSCN2101DSCN2102But we still managed to pick enough purslane for the kraut.

DSCN2105We washed the soil off of our harvest and prepared to layer our kraut ingredients into our fermenting crock.

I picked up this crock at the local flea market for about $40. Way cheaper than buying a new fancy crock online.

I picked up this crock at the local flea market for about $40. Way cheaper than buying a new fancy crock online.

We layered the vegetables, sprinkling pickling salt between the layers.

DSCN2108It filled the crock at first…

DSCN2109But then we poured the whey on and began the pounding to create a brine.

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We pounded this kraut gently so as not to destroy the purslane.

And after the pounding there was not so much in the crock.

DSCN2112Then I placed a small plate on top of the kraut to ensure the vegetables stay under the brine and placed the lid on top to keep out unwanted intrusions.

DSCN2117And my lovely assistant got a starfish strawberry kefir popsicle.

DSCN2113The kraut is happily fermenting in its crock on the kitchen bench and will remain there for about 5 days until it is suitably pickled. Then I will transfer it into a jar and store it in the fridge.

Purslane is popping up now in the Okanagan in gardens and farmers fields. It is very tasty, quite mild in flavour with a pleasing texture and is a great intro to wild vegetables. Purslane boasts nourishing amounts of essential fatty acid omega 3, vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin C, and riboflavin as well as vital magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

We look forward to enjoying our nutrient rich purslane in many meals from now until the end of it’s growing season and hope to make some jars of garlic dill pickled purslane to enjoy in the cooler months as well.

I hope you try your hand at traditional lacto fermentation, it really is easy, yummy, and so good for you.

And don’t forget to eat your weeds.

Danika.

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It’s Stinging Nettle season in the Okanagan.

I get pretty excited leading up to this part of the year and start to dream up stinging nettle recipes weeks before the nettles are ready to pick. I also have an irrational tendency to panic over not having enough nettles to last me a year even if I have jars and jars of dried nettle leaf and plenty steamed, chopped nettles in the freezer. And why wouldn’t I?

Nettles make you feel good…

Nettles, as a food, deeply nourishes and restores arguably better than any other. It’s absolutely delicious as a green vegetable, mineral dense and slightly salty, so rich in broths and green smoothies.  It dries easily and blends well with many other herbs for nourishing infusions, and a pinch added to tisane blends adds depth of flavour and colour.

I like to blend nettle tea with red clover and peppermint for an enjoyable, full flavoured tisane that not only tastes great it supports the adrenals, balances hormones, boosts fertility, settles the stomach, and helps prevent cancer; all while being rich in vitamins, minerals and life giving vibrancy.

I’m not going to go in depth as to why nettles are awesome, today. Instead I am going to share a recipe. I’ll probably make a nice monograph for nettles another time.

I’m in the mood to make, taste and experience good food made from nettles, so when I got home with the first of my harvest I made a batch of this delicious and nourishing soup. It is a creamy soup but not your traditional stodgy, thickened with flour, cream of chicken soup. It is light yet rich, made with fresh spring cream and scratch made chicken broth . A simple seasonal dish that is easy to make and very delicious, if not a little French rustic.

Creamy Nettle & Chicken Soup

nettle soup

Ingredients:

8 cups of freshly picked nettles

1 whole chicken, rinsed well (Pasture raised, organic, is best but work with what you’ve got.)

2T olive oil

1T butter

2 onions, fine diced

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

1T apple cider vinegar

Bay leaf

1 cup fresh cream (Again, the best is from pastured, organic cows, and watch out for funky additives.)

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Chopped spring chives and chive blossoms to garnish

In a stock pot that will accommodate a whole bird, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil and butter until they soften and become deeper in flavour, releasing their aromatics. This will be your flavour base for the soup. Don’t over colour your onions and carrots, this soup is on the delicate side of flavour profiles. You want to enjoy the subtle flavours of nettles, broth, cream and chives and a more fresh and purifying sense in the mouth, unlike the colder months rich, slow cooked, winter soups.

Throw in the chopped garlic and bay leaf and sauté until there is a release of aroma. Add the vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Drop your bird into the pot then cover with fresh, cold, filtered water. Add a good tablespoon of salt and some cracked pepper to the pot and turn up the heat. Bring the broth to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.

After about 10 minutes a little bit of scum will surface. Grab your ladle and skim it off. Now you can use the pot’s lid to partially cover the stock pot so that the steaming broth can baste the top of the bird, as it will tend to float a bit as it cooks.

Leave your broth to simmer for an hour. While the broth simmers you can very lightly steam the nettles in a pot, just until they turn a gorgeous, bright green. Strain them, reserving the green liquid to add to the broth. Once they cool enough to handle roughly chop them up and set aside for serving.

After the broth has simmered for about an hour, test the doneness of the chicken. The meat should slip easily off the bone. Remove the cooked bird, strain the juices that run off but pour them back into the pot. Keep the broth simmering uncovered to reduce and concentrate the flavour while you deal to the chicken meat.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bones and chop half of it for the nettle soup. Save the rest of the meat for another dish tomorrow, it will have a lovely flavour and should be anything but dry.

Once the broth has reduced enough to your liking, take your ladle once again and skim off any undesired fat. There will be a layer floating on top. You may wish to keep it all, it is good fats after all. Or, like me, you may prefer a less oily soup and leave only enough to make yummy looking pools of goodness around the edges of the bowl. Now add the chicken meat back to the pot, add the cream and check the seasoning….

Is it good? No? Try more salt. Scratch made broth needs a good amount of salt in it. Not too much though, the nettles are a bit salty as they are mineral dense, but you won’t notice so much as not need extra salt once served.

Let everything warm back up together.

When ready to serve, portion the nettles into each bowl then ladle the hot soup on top of the greens.

Garnish with chopped spring chives and chive blossoms. Season if desired.

Serve with a salad of wild spring greens and slices of baguette spread with fresh butter.

Enjoy your yummy, creamy, nettle goodness.

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I have some more nettle greens recipes to share and I might do some tutorials on preparing nettles for the freezer, in vinegars for nutrient dense vinaigrettes,  and drying them for teas and infusions.

Or I might not. I have a strange perspective on blogging right now, currently feeling it’s a bit vain and self promoting, because, well it kind of is, hah! But on the other hand there are some great benefits, like getting to nerd out and write a monograph that has to be good because it will be scrutinised.

And I like that I have decided to share recipes. I have a skill and a passion for food, and now that I am not working in the culinary arts I no longer have to treat food (crap quality, so-called food that is) as a profit margin.

I love that I am falling in love with my culture of food and dining all over again. It’s like re-immersing myself into my true beliefs towards preparing and sharing nourishment that also tastes amazing. It’s about home grown and hand gathered, about slowing down, taking time, sharing with the ones I love and hanging out in bliss over a dish with a good glass of wine. Remembering my own food culture actually helps me deal with my homesickness. Now that’s got to be healthy.

It’s just too good not to share. We shall see what happens next…

Until next time, eat your weeds!

Danika.

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Lush little gully full of life at James Lake, BC.

I have not written in while now and have much to catch up on so I can continue in some sort of seasonal flow here with the plants I discover and learn to use in my area. So I will start with my late spring/early summer wanderings and hopefully next time I can focus more on one plant at a time with each subsequent posting.

We had a strangely cool and wet Spring here in the Okanagan and the Summer is unfolding much warmer but the rain has yet to fully burn off for the season. Just this afternoon we had an impressive thunderstorm that flooded my garden and driveway for a little while. This is great for our water supply and the wild plants and cultivated fields are looking lush for now. The spring rain came every few days and although light and misty it made the harvest of wild herbs rather difficult to plan around at times considering other commitments must be fulfilled and I had to wait till late afternoon for the plants and flowers to dry off some days.

Like recently, I had planned a trip to gather some arnica while they bloomed as I am nearly out of arnica balm, a medicine kit staple. I arrived to find what arnica had flowered was spent and the majority of the arnica fields had not reached inflorescence anyways. So I wandered off  in search of other good things growing in the woods and wild fields.

Wild rose. It doesn't get any better for me.

As it turned out the wild rose was blooming and looking vibrant and lush so I gathered some petals, a handful of unopened buds to blend into my favourite tisanes and a few leaves as well. I made the petals and leaves into my first rose tincture. I want to get to know the Wild Rose much more intimately this year along with Elderberry and also Choke Cherry as I have never met a wild cherry tree before now nor have I tasted it’s fruit or bark. As it happens there is a stand of choke cherry trees near the wild rose I visit.

Pikitau with James Lake in the background.

On the weekend of Fathers day we went on a camping trip up to James Lake. It’s a lake in the hills behind my house, it takes about an hour to drive up there from where we are. What’s kind of cool is it’s so close yet a completely different ecology. The Okanagan is awesome like that, so much diversity in such a small area.  I couldn’t  believe my luck, there were so many herbs and mushrooms up there to get to know. Some I have seen before like violets although the James Lake violets are the yellow flowered stream violet. Others I had noticed previously while reading my local field guide for leisure like the dork I am. Like Cow Parsnip. You can eat the young stems, peeled and sauted in butter and garlic would be superb camp fire fare. We nibbled them raw just to have a taste and become familiar but left the rest undisturbed. A word of warning about cow parsnip, it is from the carrot family and lives in similar habitat as the highly toxic water hemlocks and poison-hemlock. Even small amounts of these poisonous plants can be fatal. I cannot stress positive identification enough! If your are not 100% sure of a carrot family plant, or any for that matter, leave it alone! I bear no responsibility for others foolishness, if you cannot ID a plant and choose to ingest it that is your business but don’t say I didn’t warn you… I write these articles for your general interest only. Take care of your own health, please. That said, cow parsnip is quite distinguishable from other carrot family plants, if you know what you are looking for. A good field guide and/or real live human guide is not optional.

Cow Parsnip - heracleum lanatum. AKA Indian celery and Indian rhubarb. Note the big dried out flower stalk from last years inflorescence.

Viola Glabella or Stream Violet. Abundant around James Lake, BC.

Mountain Sweet Cicely - Osmorhiza chilensis. Anise flavoured leaves and roots reminisent of baby carrots.

Mountain Sweet Cicely root. Please be very mindful when harvesting a plant for it's roots, you are taking the whole plant and it will not grow back. Use your common sense and do not harvest if there is lack of abundance of the plant you wish to take. If you do take it, use it all. Don't let the plants life be in vain.

Naturally there were Nettles, my favourite! I finally found a healthy abundant patch of nettles and I was stoked. I gathered the tops carefully and thankfully and still have a little steamed and frozen for my autumn soups. I actually came across gold while I was enjoying some time alone fishing. Morel mushrooms!  They have to be, in my opinion, the best tasting mushrooms ever. It was really cool to be able to pick some wild morels and serve them sauteed with garlic and dandelions on top of campfire steaks.

Need I introduce you?

Camp fire cooking is the best kind of cooking.

Basket o' nettles...

Morels!

A little friend hopped over to say hi.

Can I kiss you little prince?

My boy loves the natural world. I caught him kissing a plants leaves once!

Who doesn't love a camp fire?

I also found wild angelica, fields of wild strawberries and heart leaf arnica and many varieties of horsetail. There were gooseberry bushes everywhere! I hope to get up there when they are fruiting. I would love some to play around with in syrups and maybe an elixir. Does anyone reading this make a wild gooseberry elixir? Is it done? It sounds good to me, perhaps when I get to know it’s energetics better I will know if this is appropriate.

As the summer has progressed and all kinds of plants send out their flowers to worship the sun I have been able to positively identify all these new plants with greater ease and certainty that I am beholding the plant I think I am. Very important. I am very happy about all the sweet clover that lives around my semi-rural neighbourhood, I couldn’t be completely sure the young plants were sweet clover or alfalfa as I had seen neither before in real life and they looked similar to me when they were emerging. Apparently, sweet clover makes awesome pesto and I really love using wild greens in my cooking to boost nutritional value of our meals but also because they bring fresh, new, vibrant flavours to our palates and my palate happens to be very tired of commercial vegetables. Of course I shop at my farmers market and grow a small garden but wild greens are primal, they thrive without requiring human interference and they are free. Nobody’s going to complain about you taking so called weeds like sweet clover, lambs quarters and dandelions so why not go out and get them…

Ahh it feels good to have a catch up and get out what has been in my head. I’d like to get much more in depth with individual plants however I realize this summer will be all about discovering new plant allies, what they look like, where they grow, the basics of how they help people. Only once I have become acquainted can I begin to walk deeper into each plants mysteries and hopefully emerge with wisdom that can be shared with fellow herb seekers. I hope your Summer (or Winter as the case may be) is going wonderfully for you.

See you next time!

Danika.

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